Considering bassist and lyricist Pete Wentz is very much the public face of Fall Out Boy, it’s easy to forget about the Chicago band’s three other members—especially the quiet longhair (drummer Andy Hurley) and that other guy (guitarist Joe Trohman). Singer-guitarist Patrick Stump is more difficult to overlook, though compared to Wentz’s gossip-column shenanigans, he lives a far more low-key life. Unlike Wentz, Stump still lives in Chicagoland, but like him, Stump takes his band’s massive popularity in stride, keenly aware of the expiration date faced by groups in his position. He has also learned to deal with the starlet-dating, naked-self-portrait-taking, media-mogul-emulating ways of his best friend Wentz, who fosters as much passionate loathing among FOB haters as swooning among their teenage fanbase. The overexposure that followed FOB’s 2005 major-label breakthrough, From Under The Cork Tree, saddled its superior successor, Infinity On High (released in February) with plenty of non-musical baggage. In reviews, FOB’s musical ambition often took a backseat to the cult of personality around Wentz, shortchanging Infinity’s ambition and hook-laden songs. Stump spends little time worrying about it, as he told The A.V. Club during a stop on the band’s current arena tour.
A.V. Club: How do you think the record has done?
Patrick Stump: I still like it, and that’s what I was shooting for. Even though it’s our fourth record, I think it’s the second record that the general public thinks we’ve ever put out. Because there’s a very strong likelihood that most everyone sophomore slumps, most everyone disappears after the hit, this was our last chance for someone to pay for strings, horns, and studio time, so I’d better make the best of it. Because in 10 years, there’s the 90-percent likelihood that me and the three other guys in the band would be the only people listening to this record.
AVC: At the same time, though, you want to make your mark and do well. How do you balance that with the understanding of fleeting success?
PS: I think it’s like knowing when you’re going to die means you can’t ever be scared. More than anything, I don’t know how long we’ll be around. I don’t know if next week, the new grunge will come in and wipe us off the map, or if we’ll be U2 and be playing for the next 20 years. But the thing that I do know is what you do with the time that you have, that can’t be undone. If you’re Kiss, and you put out “I Was Made For Loving You,” you can’t take that back. That’s kinda where we are. I don’t ever want to do something to cater to some trend that’s happening or something like that, because those are the mistakes you live with forever.
AVC: Do you have a specific memory of when you realized that Fall Out Boy had gotten huge?
PS: Honestly, literally my only goal with the band was that I wanted to play Metro. All my other little bands had never gotten to play there, and I had really just wanted to play Metro. So, after that, there were really no goals. Juxtaposing that with the time that Jay-Z came out and introduced us in New York, that was probably one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen, just ’cause he’s an icon to the point like a Michael Jordan or something. He’s colossal. Seeing that and knowing, here we are, we’re this little pop-punk accident that was really just four guys trying to delay going to college a little longer, [in front of] 5,000-7,000 people while Jay-Z is introducing us. That was definitely an eye-opener, like, “Holy crap. Take pictures, remember this.” I still can’t really reconcile it. It’s weird. I love the anonymity of being this band that’s really excessively famous with a really vocal minority of kids—and totally invisible anywhere else. We’ll end up at awards shows, and security looks us up and down, like, “How’d you get in here?” I think that’s always going to be a part of us, that we don’t really belong in the pop-culture mainstream, because I don’t know how the hell we ended up in it. [Laughs]
AVC: On Metacritic’s summation of Infinity, someone posted in the comments that a lot of the reviews were more a referendum on Pete than an actual assessment of the music. How accurate is that?
PS: I have encountered that a lot. I think it’s frustrating for Pete, a lot. It’s hard to quantify it, but he doesn’t go out and seek it all the time, but then the one day that he does, a billion cameras show up, and he’s a “glory hog.” But I know the guy better than anybody, and on any given day he’s the quietest, politest guy I know. His bad day is always on camera. It’s a thing that’s become distracting, and I think it’s frustrating for all of us because he spends more time, more honest labor on his craft than anybody I know. He takes songwriting very, very seriously, and I take songwriting very, very seriously. I’ll open up a review, and they’ll talk about Pete’s dick, and I’m like, “Awesome. So you’re telling me I basically cut off myself from friends, family, and the world at large to have my entire work pared down to Pete’s genitals. Awesome.” [Laughs.] So that definitely gets annoying, obviously. Everyone’s seen his dick; let’s move on. But at the same time, you have to have some good humor about it, because it’s funny.
AVC: The cult of personality around him could sink another band. How does Fall Out Boy deal with that?
PS: Pete’s probably my best friend in the world; I think he understands me better than a lot of people, and I understand him better than a lot of people. And that’s the way we get over it. If they make you into a wrestling character, into that great mythical kind of bad guy, it’s really easy for people to make you into something, to decide who you are. At the end of the day, the Pete that I read about, yeah, I don’t like him ’cause I’ve read he’s a total dick. But the thing is I actually know Pete Wentz, and he’s a really good guy, he’s a really quiet guy, he’s a really polite guy. He’s a really mellow, honest, loyal guy. He’s not this cold-hearted mogul. It’s the funniest thing; if Pete Wentz really cared about money, he’d probably make more. He wastes and loses more money than anybody I know—he gives it away. At any rate, whatever, I don’t want to gush about him, but that’s how we overcome that whole cult of personality. At the end of the day, they deify you or demonize you, but you’re really just some guy.